By Christopher Wink
Speaking in front of more than two dozen uniformed police officers and nearly as many firefighters and other officials from the city’s emergency services, Mayor Nutter yesterday heightened pressure on state legislators to “give Philadelphia the tools it needs to help itself.”
“If our General Assembly does not approve the two budget measures we’ve asked for — a temporary increase in the city sales tax and a variety of pension reforms — we will be faced with no choice but to implement a series of devastating cuts,” Nutter said outside the 2nd and 15th police district headquarters on Levick Street near Harbison Avenue in West Mayfair. “Cuts that will impact every neighborhood in Philadelphia, including right here in the Northeast.”
In May, City Council approved a balance budget that depended on those two provisions that need legislative approval: bumping up one percent the city’s sales tax for five years and re-amortizing the city’s pension system by pausing payments for two years and redistributing payments over 25 years instead of 20. Without those options, Nutter said they’ll have to revisit trying to close a $700 million budget shortfall.
At yesterday’s rally, Nutter focused on what that would do to Philadelphia generally and the Northeast specifically, a region of the city known for its communities of cops and firefighters.
If the sales tax and pension reform provisions aren’t passed by Aug. 15 to realize necessary savings, Nutter said yesterday, he will be forced to propose a “Plan C” budget that, as he first announced last Thursday, will slash city services from garbage collection to Fairmount Park and, as displayed prominently yesterday, cut nearly 1,000 cops and 200 firefighters.
“The Mayor was literally putting a face on the numbers in the crisis in Philadelphia, by lining up with police officers and other emergency services personnel,” said Jeff Jubelirer, a political consultant with Center City media firm Ceisler Jubelirer.
- The loss of 972 police personnel, including 198 by attrition and the firing of 739 sworn officers and 43 civilians.
- The loss of 196 firefighters and paramedics.
- The deactivation of six fire engine companies, three ladder companies and five medic units.
- The closing of all city recreation centers and two city health centers.
- A shutdown of all branch and regional libraries.
- A reduction in citywide trash pickup from weekly to twice a month.
- An end to operations at Fairmount Park and the elimination of the City Planning Commission and Commerce Department.
Add. Source: Inquirer
“To his credit, he has said he would have approached that fight differently, so there has clearly been some learning,” Jubelirer said. “Now he clearly wants to show he has everyone in the world with him.”
A dozen residents of Mayfair and elsewhere watched the press conference and most seemed adamantly opposed to taking police off the streets, particularly in such a large number.
“That would have a serious impact on safety and the local economy,” Nutter said.
It’s an angle Nutter pushed hard in encouraging voters to reach out to their state legislators about the provisions he wants to use to close the city’s budget gap.
He repeated that Plan C was an option he’d like to avoid and expressed frustration with what he saw as inaction on the part of the state legislature.
“It’s not about what you like,” he said. “It’s about doing what needs to be done.”
Traffic on the busy 2800-block of Levick Street was blocked for nearly one hour beginning just after nine a.m. A Michael Jackson impersonator inexplicably appeared after the press conference and began dancing to a series of the pop icons songs, much to the curiosity of onlookers and the involved officers.